Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Case of the Game Face

Derrick Rose's display today was mesmerizing. His play helped brush his Bulls past the hometown Celtics in a game that featured great point guard possessions on each end. Not to be outdone by his champion seasoned opponent, Rajon Rondo, Derrick, quite literally, rose to the occasion in the first NBA playoff game of his career. And it was no doubt a notable one.

Perhaps more impressive than his 36 point, 11 assist effort and perfection from the free throw line was his demeanor. The announcers continued to comment on how calm he looked. It's no surprise. Those that have followed Derrick's impressive rookie campaign and his brief, and highly heralded college year at Memphis, know what he brings to the court -- dazzling quickness, extreme explosiveness, and a sometimes deceiving, high octane game.

In psychological terms, Rose's self-regulation capacity could be termed efficient and effective. The lay fan may infer his ability to stay in control from his "game face", the outwardly expression one notices on an athlete, especially in basketball where close-ups are as normal as a Bulls' pick and roll. No studies come to mind that substantiate what a more effective game face is, intriguing as it may be. Is it best remain mostly dead pan during the action? Do more elite athletes show limited emotion? Except for his one second of flailing frustration when he picked up his sixth foul, it was if Rose had been through the game a million times. Maybe he had in his mind? In fact, during one timeout when the players go and chill in their seats as the coaches convene on court to discuss adjustments, the rookie PG looked so tranquil that he could take a power nap.

In Rose's case, his calmness shows in interviews as well. Nancy Lieberman was only able to get a quick peek of his smile during her post-game interrogation, posing the question to Derrick whether he knew the legendary company he was in when it came to his stat-stuffing performance at the Garden. An honest "no" with some pearly whites, and it was right back to his all business-like appearance.

His outrageously excitable adversary, Kevin Garnett, unfortunately couldn't compete due to his nagging knee problem. In fact, KG's game face even for this game, one in which he wasn't able to come full force, was so intense that he wasn't able to parade on the bench in the second half. He felt he was a distraction to his teammates, as Lieberman reported in the third quarter. Though his peers wanted him by their side, he wasn't able to calm himself to a level where he could cheer and coach and support from the sideline. Huh... Maybe Bill Simmons' claim was accurate last year, inferring that the KG intensity was not an advantage, as it is something that cannot get any higher for fear of eruption -- nor lower itself to a controllable degree.

Imagine Derrick Rose playing with Kevin Garnett's emotional volume, writhing in facially wrinkled pain and blurting out swears to everyone, or nobody depending on one's interpretation, on every great play? From game face to event explosion.

What is best for performance? Whichever works, especially if it fits with the position, role, and personalities of the team. Both are entertaining. Both are effective. Though Rose's game face doesn't change, his gears sure do. KG rolls at one speed, over the typical limit in most cases. The only thing that could catch him this year was an actual part of himself. Darn. It would be tantalizing to see these two leaders, two game faces, go at it for an entire series.


S.K. said...

I'm probably in the minority, but I like the fact that Derrick Rose always plays with the same cool, relaxed demeanor (Chicago fans are notorious for their criticism of players who don't show "fire"). But I've always played with that demeanor too, so maybe I just identify with Rose for that reason.

As for his post-game interview: Derrick Rose is just a very shy, unpolished 20 year old kid from Englewood (one of the most notoriously tough & crime-ridden neighborhoods on the South Side of Chicago). He needs to be coached in diction & public speaking (as many high-profile professional athletes are). He'll likely get the necessary coaching, and become a better speaker in time. I know his brothers; they've got personality and they speak pretty well.

But shyness and speaking style aside, Rose just has a natural calm & relaxed demeanor. Personally, I think that's the ideal disposition for a point guard.

put your KG face on said...

love the article and theory (linked to from Truehoop)

one small, finicky matter -- it's "peek," not "peak." In theory, it doesn't matter to the article judged as a whole, but typos are like mosquitoes to me.

Anonymous said...

I love this artical.......
I like most the fact that derrick rose always plays with the same cool..

see this

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